MANILA - Former Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello cautioned his group against keeping its alliance with President Aquino's Liberal Party (LP) and throwing its support behind its presumptive standard-bearer, outgoing Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
Bello, who gave up his congressional seat last March over differences with Aquino, said his group could be seen as merely “tailing” the LP or “some sort of the left wing” of the ruling party.
“The party (Akbayan) could emerge in a very damaged condition here,” he told ABS-CBN News.
Bello said backing Roxas’ presidential bid in 2016 “would not be good for the party,” citing Roxas’ shortcomings as transportation secretary and later, interior secretary.
It’s no secret that Roxas’ campaign will be hinged on the promise to continue Aquino’s “Daang Matuwid” program for good governance. But Bello insisted that Roxas would not necessarily benefit from Mr. Aquino’s popularity.
Aquino endorsed Roxas’ candidacy in a “gathering with friends” at Club Filipino last July 31. But the LP was careful not to call the affair a party convention to avoid violating election laws.
Akbayan Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez said Akbayan would announce the presidential candidate it would support only after a meeting of its national council later this month.
But this early, Gutierrez has been actively supporting Roxas’ candidacy. He’s among the most vocal supporters of Roxas in the House of Representatives.
Gutierrez played down Bello’s criticism of Roxas, saying: “I don’t think that’s shared by a lot of members of Akbayan.”
“I would agree that there is an image problem, but that’s precisely why we have the campaign to introduce to the people who the real Mar Roxas is,” he said.
Gutierrez said he was in favor of keeping the LP-Akbayan alliance because “we still have a lot of opportunities to push our reform agenda.”
“We can still do a lot if we will still be part of another administration after Secretary Mar wins,” he said.
SOFT ON FRIENDS
Last June, Bello wrote a lengthy essay explaining why he quit as Akbayan congressman and withdrew support of the Aquino administration.
He questioned Aquino’s “double-standard” of being hard on enemies but very soft on his friends.
Bello said the President should have also accepted “full responsibility” over the killing of 44 members of the Special Action Force in Mamasapano last January.
“It was now clear to me that the president would brook no criticism of his subordinates and that this fraternity-like way of running the country exemplified all that was wrong with political governance in the Philippines,” he wrote.
“It was also clear that the party leadership would not speak to him on my behalf, perhaps out of fear of angering him even further, losing influence with him, or even losing positions the party had obtained in the administration.”
By supporting Aquino, Akbayan has been rewarded with key positions in his administration.
Ronald Llamas is the Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs, while Joel Rocamora, a founder and former Akbayan president, heads the National Anti-Poverty Commission.
Former Akbayan Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales, Akbayan’s chairperson emeritus, headed the Commission on Human Rights.
More recently, ex-Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros was appointed to the board of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. The appointment was partly seen as a way to provide her with more exposure in preparation for another senatorial run under the administration ticket next year.
Former Rep. Mario Aguja sits in the board of the Government Service Insurance System, while Danny Edralin is a director at the Social Security System. Tom Villarin used to be an undersecretary at the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Like Bello, Rosales acknowledged that her group should have been “more critical of the programs of government.”
“We fell short on that,” he admitted.
Still, Rosales said Akbayan should remain in the alliance to help promote its programs and advocacies such as reproductive health.
“Akbayan is pretty strong on reproductive health care. President Aquino personally wants that. But as a national policy, it’s still lacking. I think there should be more resolve,” she said.